What is transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP)?

If your prostate becomes too large, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure known as transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP). It can help relieve the uncomfortable or painful symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that produces seminal fluid in men. It surrounds your urethra, a tube that connects your bladder to the outside of your body. As you age, your prostate may become enlarged and squeeze your urethra, making urination more difficult. This is a condition known as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), or enlarged prostate. It’s common among older men.

It’s normal for your prostate to become enlarged as you age. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), BPH affects one in five men between the ages of 50 and 60. It’s even more common among older men. An estimated 70 percent of men over the age of 70 have prostate problems.

If you have symptoms of an enlarged prostate, your doctor may prescribe medication or other treatments. If those treatments don’t work, they may recommend surgery. The TURP procedure may be necessary if:

  • you have slow urination
  • your bladder never feels empty
  • you feel an increased need to urinate at night
  • you experience frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • you experience bleeding from your prostate
  • you have a history of bladder stones
  • you develop kidney damage

If you experience these symptoms, your doctor will evaluate your overall health, medical history, and the size and shape of your prostate gland. This will help them determine if the TURP procedure may be a good option for you.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the TURP procedure is one of the most effective treatments for relieving urinary symptoms of BPH. But since it’s an invasive surgical procedure that requires anesthesia, it also poses risks.

Potential complications of surgery include:

  • blood loss
  • blood clots
  • infection
  • difficulty breathing
  • heart attack or stroke
  • reaction to anesthesia

You may also experience other complications following the TURP procedure, including:

  • internal organ damage
  • difficulty controlling your urine stream
  • narrowing of your urethra, which can limit your urine flow
  • difficulty maintaining or achieving an erection
  • retrograde ejaculation, in which semen flows backwards into your bladder
  • infertility

In a small number of cases, people experience a rare condition known as TURP syndrome, or TUR syndrome. The symptoms usually occur within 24 hours after surgery and can include:

  • changes in your blood pressure
  • increased breathing rate
  • abnormal heartbeat
  • nausea and vomiting
  • trouble seeing
  • confusion
  • agitation

Before you undergo the TURP procedure, ask your doctor about the potential risks. If you undergo the surgery, watch for signs of TURP syndrome and other complications. If you notice signs of potential problems, call your doctor right away.

During the TURP procedure, your surgeon will remove a portion of your prostate. You will likely be placed under general anesthesia, so you’ll be unconscious and unable to feel pain. Or you may receive spinal anesthesia, which numbs the nerves in your lower body so you won’t feel pain.

Your surgeon will use a long thin scope, called a resectoscope, which will allow them to see your prostate gland. They will insert it through the end of your penis. Then they will insert a surgical tool through the scope to remove a portion of your prostate. The amount removed will depend on the shape and size of your prostate.

Once your surgeon removes the scope, they will insert a catheter into your penis to allow urine to flow following surgery. It will also help remove any blood clots that may form.

The entire procedure typically lasts one hour.

Your surgeon will likely advise you to stay in the hospital for one to three days following your surgery. During this time, you will be given intravenous (IV) fluids to promote urine flow. And you can expect some blood and blood clots to appear in your urine.

It usually takes three to six weeks to recover. During this time, you should refrain from strenuous activity. And notify your physician if you experience:

  • persistent bleeding
  • signs of TURP syndrome
  • fever or other symptoms of infection
  • impotence that lasts longer than three months
  • pain that can’t be controlled with medication

Your doctor can help you learn what to expect following TURP surgery. Ask them about your condition, risks of complications, and long-term outlook.